The Perfect Shield

The Shield remains one of the most seamless shows that has ever aired, period. It never faltered, never stumbled, never even had a "fill-in" or "coasting" episode. For seven seasons, Michael Chiklis's Vic Mackey runned and gunned all over the seediest neighborhoods in L.A. as if his life depended on it (it did), and we were treated to some of the grittiest, most brutally honest law-and-disorder storytelling and envelope-pushing seen on basic cable. (Thank you, FX.)

The final season, Season 7, has just made it onto DVD, and it brings everything to a head with one of the most satisfying — if ultimately unrepentingly tragic — endings to a show ever. The full-frame Super 16 handheld style that was established in the pilot held consistent throughout all seven seasons, giving The Shield a signature look that built upon the documentarian, you-are-there feel of Homicide: Life on the Street. You'll have to adjust your eyes and expectations if you watch these DVDs on a plasma set as I did — and via my Blu-ray Disc player to boot — but once you do (I was duly attenuated by Episode 3), the realism of it all becomes, well, all that more real.

Once again, Sony has ensured a memorable box set, with each of the 12 episodes carrying commentaries from multiple sources; almost every episode of the entire series, in fact, has a commentary like that. And unlike many an empty BS commentary session, each one here is worth your time, due to a) the general camaraderie and respect both the actors and creators have for each other and the work as a whole, and b) the cognizant shepherding of series creator Shawn Ryan. I recently spoke with Ryan about the minutiae of this box set specifically and the greatness of The Shield in general, and we'll be posting that interview here soon. Stay tuned — you'll not see the likes of this one again anytime soon. —Mike Mettler, S&V EIC